Norm’s $250,000 Scotch Party
The first time Norm Brodsky invited me to his famous “Scotch Party” was in 2012. Norm, a well-known mentor to entrepreneurs and a successful entrepreneur in his own right, had taken me under his wing years earlier as I built out a national community of business owners now known as Birthing of Giants. I had no idea these mentoring sessions would lead to a multi-decade friendship.
Every quarter from 2010 to 2015, I would visit Norm with my financials and growth strategy to get his take on my progress and plans. Norm is famous for his unconventional view of business, which usually turns out to be dead on, so I always sought his perspective before making any major move.
During one of these visits, he invited me to his next Scotch Party. I had heard about these events but never dared to ask for an invitation. All I knew was that every six months, Norm and his co-host, Rob Levin would invite 20 entrepreneurial bigwigs to the private apartment that Norm and his wife, Elaine, kept above his warehouse in an industrial district on Brooklyn’s waterfront. The parties were conceived during a night of drinking several years earlier and had evolved into a semiannual event during which Norm and Rob treat their guests to a round of three rare Scotches, followed by a fabulous steak dinner accompanied by exceptional wine, and concluded with cigars and Port. The guest list changed each time, creating a growing network—the legendary “Scotch Party” fraternity—that heaped untold benefits to its members.
On the night of my first Scotch Party, I stepped into a gorgeous high-ceilinged space with a breathtaking 360-degree view. The magnificent Manhattan skyline rose to the west just beyond the East River. Norm’s other brightly colored warehouse extended south, while vacant lots interspersed with ancient brick factories lay to the north and east. A waiter whisked away my coat and another offered me canapes. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs who were as hungry—literally and figuratively—as I was. I had joined the Scotch Party fraternity.
Since then, I have become a regular. Norm limits attendance to 20 guests, but the Scotch Party network (and mine) grew and grew. I have made lifelong friendships at Norm’s Scotch Party.
Then, life happened. First, Norm’s warehouse and apartment burned down one cold night in January 2015. After a months-long hiatus, the party re-emerged in the adjacent parking lot with a tent and a barbecue grill. It was fantastic in a completely different way. More recently, the party has moved to the office Norm and I now share (Norm became my partner in Birthing of Giants) just a few blocks away from his warehouse in what has become the hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg.
Today, those old warehouses go for a king’s ransom, but the party continues—a lasting vestige of old school indulgence in a world that has been battered by recessions, pandemics, fires, retirements and gentrification. We celebrated Norm’s 75th birthday with a Scotch Party, then his 76th and his 77th. Norm powered on, energized, he says, by surrounding himself with younger people and still able to drink most of them under the table. (Never challenge him to a beer chugging contest. Never.) But it couldn’t last forever. Could it?
I recently got my answer, as a group of Scotch Party regulars were enjoying a new batch of whiskey Norm had newly acquired. “I have an announcement to make,” he said. “I have recently funded the Scotch Party with an endowment to last at least 10 more years after I’m gone.” Questions swirled. Where was he going? What would the Scotch Party be like without him? But this was a room of hard-headed businesspeople, so someone asked the one question on all of our minds, however crass: “How much?” How much had Norm set aside for an event that easily ran into the thousands every time?
“$250,000,” Norm said. “If invested properly, that should last about 10 or more years.”
Norm is entrusting his son-in-law, Ari, and his co-host, Rob, to manage the money and the affair. Both are middle-aged and will be able to carry on the tradition for many years. It was a powerful moment, one that officially enshrined a tradition that had started casually more than a decade ago. It was also a moment to acknowledge our appreciation—and love—for Norm himself.
Friends outside the Scotch Party circle have heard me rave about it for years. When I told them of Norm’s largesse, some saw it as a punchline to a “you won’t believe what rich people do” joke. But I don’t see it that way at all.
While Norm has been a dedicated philanthropist supporting the causes he holds dear—food pantries for low-income families, an endowment for his alma mater that graduates mostly “first-generation-to-go-to-college” students and greenspace initiatives (he sold those warehouse properties to the New York City Parks Department)—his lasting legacy could be his mentorship of countless entrepreneurs. His latest act of generosity will lead to a whole new crop of entrepreneurs that can gain access to the close-knit Scotch Party network and go on to create thousands of jobs and millions in local and global economic impact long after he’s gone. Norm Brodsky is the epitome of entrepreneurial mentorship.
Lewis Schiff runs Birthing of Giants Fellowship Week on behalf of the Board of Experts, which includes some of the top entrepreneurs in the world. Their one week of guided strategic planning transforms owners of the fastest-growing companies into the giants their businesses need them to be. He also runs Moonshots & Moneymakers: The Oxford Innovation Conference for American Entrepreneurs.